University of Exeter – policy on use of animals in research

The University of Exeter is committed to the responsible use of animals in its research and teaching activities. The University has developed a policy on working with animals, which can be found, in full, below:

The University of Exeter is committed to the responsible use of animals in its research and teaching activities and has developed a policy on working with animals.

The University's mission statement includes an emphasis on high quality research, and values being ‘tolerant, humane and liberal minded.’ In a University where biological sciences and medicine have a high profile, animals are central to research and teaching. Until satisfactory alternatives have been developed, the processes of discovery, enquiry and teaching require approaches that involve animals in order to gain a knowledge and understanding of molecular biology, ecology, behaviour, and physiology and pathology and in order to pass on knowledge to students.

Scientists at the University of Exeter, in common with many other researchers, are constantly seeking ways to reduce the number of animals needed for their research and for teaching; refine experimental methods, and replace animals wherever possible, working to the exacting requirements of the Home Office and Funding agencies. However, ‘alternative’ tests and models have yet to be developed that can properly reproduce the complex biological characteristics of humans and animals, and studies of wild animals in their natural environment will always require the involvement of the animals themselves.

In the UK, research and teaching activities involving animals considered to be sentient are governed by a range of legislation, chief of which is the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, 1986. Compliance of research involving these species is monitored by animal care and welfare officers, the University Veterinary Officer, and by the Home Office through its inspectors. All members of the University carrying out procedures regulated under the Act must by law have prior training, relevant experience, and authority from the Home Office. All projects affecting such animals are subject to prior formal ethical review within the University.

In any work involving animals of protected species, the policy of the University of Exeter is to adhere to high standards of humane care and treatment of those animals. The University has designed and built facilities and has set up work programmes to meet these requirements and to comply with all relevant laws and guidelines. The over-riding considerations are that:-

  • Research on animals is conducted only when it will contribute to the advancement of knowledge that is likely to lead to improvement of the health and welfare of animals and/or human beings, or provide a better understanding of the animals themselves.
  • The University conducts studies involving animals on the basis of well-defined scientific objectives, giving due consideration to the welfare of the animals, minimising the number of animals employed in each test, and avoiding unnecessary duplication.
  • Where animals are used in teaching, either to demonstrate fundamental principles or to provide practical training, the same principles of minimising numbers and maximising animal welfare are practised.

The University actively supports the development, validation and adoption of appropriate alternatives to the use of animals in order to eliminate the need for animals in both research and teaching. In vitro studies are used as substitutes for whole-animal studies whenever such tests are feasible, and cadavers and audio-visual technology are used in teaching.

All animals obtained by the University for research are subject to inspection and approval by the University Veterinary Officer, and all laboratory animals that are protected by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, 1986 are purpose bred at establishments licensed by the Home Office. Studies on farm and wild animals and those not classed as ‘laboratory’ animals are subject to stringent ‘wildlife’ and ‘agricultural’ laws and the University Veterinary Officer monitors all such studies to ensure compliance.

Animals are transported, housed and cared for by dedicated and trained staff under professional supervision in a manner designed to ensure the best health and well-being of the animal, with provisions for environmental enrichment.

Members of the veterinary profession are available at all times for consultation, care and attendance.

The University of Exeter is committed to the responsible use of animals in its research and teaching activities. All University personnel who supervise or undertake activities involving animals are trained to carry out their duties in a responsible and humane manner.